Pakistan will release 439 Indian fishermen arrested by its security agencies in two batches in the next two weeks, a non-governmental organisation said on Friday. The Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy said that the first batch of 220 fishermen would be released on Sunday, and the remaining 219 would be set free on January 5, 2017. The NGO is a civil society forum set up by activists in both countries in 1994 to promote peace and democracy between the two neighbours.
“The goodwill gesture will go a long way in strengthening relations between the two countries,” the organisation said. “The release is also important as there is no bilateral talk and there is [a] complete pause in dialogue [between the two countries].” There are approximately 516 Indian fishermen in prisons in Pakistan and 80 Pakistanis in various jails in India’s Gujarat, the PIPFPD said. It called on New Delhi to reciprocate the “goodwill gesture” by Islamabad.
“Both countries should [also] release confiscated fishing boats which are in a position to sail...the boats are the only source of livelihood for fishermen from India and Pakistan. The NGO also claimed that the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners – set up by both governments in 2008 – had not met since the current Narendra Modi-led government in India had come to power.
News of the release and the remarks by the organisation come two days after the Indian Coast Guard detained 26 Pakistani fishermen and seized five boats off the Jakhau coast in the Kutch district of Gujarat. This is one of the largest groups of Pakistani citizens to be detained following the surgical strikes on militant camps along the Line of Control by the Indian Army in September. Relations between the two countries have worsened since a militant attack on an Indian Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri and the surgical strikes.